UPDATED: MCLEOD-SKINNER CONCEDES IN CD5
Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner on Sunday evening conceded the 5th Congressional District race to Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer.
“While there are still votes to count, it appears that the ultimate result will not be the outcome we worked so hard to achieve," McLeod-Skinner , a Terrebonne attorney said a statement.
The GOP win flips the seat held by seven-term U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, who was defeated by McLeod-Skinner in the May Democratic primary. It adds to their apparently narrow margin in seeking to wrest control of the U.S. House from the Democrats.
McLeod-Skinner conceded just before 5 p.m., following after a decision by the Associated Press to call the race for Chavez-DeRemer.
McLeod-Skinner said in the statement she had called Chavez-DeRemer to acknowledge the race was over.
"I spoke with Lori to congratulate her and wish her well in representing Oregon’s Fifth District during these challenging times. Our success as Oregonians is dependent on the success of our elected leaders, and I encourage all of us to help our elected leaders bridge our divides to address our common challenges."
Chavez-DeRemer and Andrea Salinas, the apparent victory in the 6th district, will simultaneously become the first Latina members of Congress from Oregon. Salinas is a Democrat.
The Oregonian newspaper had called the race for Chavez-DeRemer on Friday based on the vote count at the time. Chavez-DeRemer issued a statement Friday endorsing the call and looking ahead to the 2023 session of Congress.
“As mayor of Happy Valley, I was proud of my bipartisan track record, and it was critical to approach every issue through a non-partisan lens,” Chavez-DeRemer said in a statement Friday. “That is exactly what I promise to do as your next Congresswoman. This is a historic victory for Oregon, but the work starts now. I vow to work for all Oregonians toward a better future for our children.”
McLeod-Skinner called that decision premature and said she believed uncounted ballots would narrow the race before final tallies are due Tuesday.
Under the state's new mail-by-vote rule, any ballot postdated Nov. 8 or before can be counted if received by a county clerk's office by Nov. 15. The final ballots received that evening will be tabulated on Nov. 16 and included in the totals.
But new ballot counts released on Saturday showed Chavez-DeRemer's lead rising from just under 6,100 votes to 6,500 votes with over 315,000 ballots tabulated.
While McLeod-Skinner was winning in Deschutes, Clackamas and Multnomah County, her leads were narrower than Chavez-DeRemer's margins in the GOP strongholds of Linn and Marion counties, where the Republican was winning by about 2-to-1.
The seat is a pick-up for Republicans' apparently narrow margin in seeking to wrest control of the U.S. House from the Democrats. A New York Times tally late Sunday showed Republicans winning 212 seats, with Democrats at 204. Republicans were leading in enough of the remaining races to project they would hit the minimum 218 seats needed to take back the majority they lost in 2018.
Democrats won a majority in the U.S. Senate, with 50 seats vs. 49 for Republicans. The seat of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, will go to a Dec. 3 run-off with Republican Herschel Walker, the former football player-turned-politician. Regardless of the outcome, Democrats are assured a majority because Vice-President Kamala Harris is also president of the U.S. Senate under the U.S. Constitution and can break many tie votes.
As of late Sunday, the vote in the 5th district showed Chavez-DeRemer with 50.90% of the vote and McLeod-Skinner at 48.84%.
Chavez-DeRemer would join U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, in Congress. It would be the first time Oregon Republicans have won more than one House seat since 1994.
After a significant realignment of the seat under redistricting, Schrader considered running in an adjacent district in the Willamette Valley. He finally opted to run as the incumbent in the 5th district. Progressive Democrats rallied to McLeod-Skinner, who won the May primary in which only party members could vote.
Redistricting for 2022 significantly realigned the 5th district, with the new map running from Portland, through parts of Clackamas, Linn and Marion counties before making a sharp eastward turn along Highway 20, over the Santiam Pass, and scooping up a portion of increasingly Democratic-leaning northern Deschutes County, including Bend.
In reporting the Associated Press calling the race for Chavez-DeRemer, the New York Times wrote she was "handing her party a crucial victory in its push to win a majority in the House."
"In her primary contest against Mr. Schrader, Ms. McLeod-Skinner ran as a more liberal candidate, leveraging frustrations over his opposition to the scope of the Build Back Better agenda championed by President Biden and other Democrats, as well as over Mr. Schrader’s successful push to water down a proposal that would lower the cost of prescription drugs. But Ms. Chavez-DeRemer, who opposes codifying abortion rights at the federal level and evaded questions about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, criticized Ms. McLeod-Skinner for her liberal stances."
McLeod-Skinner on Friday noted the stakes in the race and asked for $50,000 in new donations to prepare for what she expected at the time would be possible recounts.
"It seems control of the House could come down to our race, and we need to be ready for anything," McLeod-Skinner wrote. "We need your help gathering resources for a prolonged vote-counting process."
By Sunday afternoon, McLeod-Skinner had decided the trends were unlikely to swing around in her favor and conceded, thanking supporters in a message of closure for this election.
“I am grateful for those who worked so hard on our campaign -- our team, our volunteers, our partners -- and everyone who contributed to our efforts to work toward a better tomorrow for Oregonians,"," McLeod-Skinner said in her statement. "It is your commitment that gives me hope for our future. We must all stay engaged in working towards that future where all Oregonians can thrive. That’s what I will continue to do, and I hope you will join me."
While the prolonged count had extended the uncertainty of the race's final outcome, McLeod-Skinner endorsed the postmark deadline rule.
“I also want to thank those working to count every vote and to ensure all eligible votes are reported -- you play a crucial role in protecting our democracy.”
Background of 2022 race for Oregon's 5th Congressional District
Oregon's closed primaries meant that only party members could cast ballots in the May elections held by Democrats and Republicans, with a third of registered voters who are unaffiliated locked out of the decision of who would be on the November ballot. Progressive Democrats rallied to McLeod-Skinner, whose election would also ensure that the bloc of voters east of the Cascades would have a local as their representative in Congress.
Many Oregon Democrats — both officials and rank-and-file members — had been unhappy with Rep. Kurt Schrader, the 5th district's Democrat incumbent for tepid support or opposition to Biden on spending and health issues. He infamously - for Democrats - likened the impeachment of President Donald Trump to "a lynching," a comment he said he regretted.
The Democratic-led Legislature redrew congressional maps last September based on new population and demographic information in the 2020 U.S. Census. The map was further complicated by the state receiving a sixth seat due to rapid growth in the previous two decades.
When the maps were approved, Schrader saw his district dramatically shifted east, with the former western border that ran on the coast now defined by the east side of Interstate 5.
The new boundaries ran from southern Portland, through Clackamas, Marion and Linn Counties before squeezing through the Santiam Pass in the Cascades to take in newly Democratic-tilting areas of northern Deschutes County.
With less than half of his current constituents living within the newly drawn district, Schrader publicly mused of the idea of running in the neighboring 6th district. Under a quirk of the U.S. Constitution, a candidate for Congress did not have to live in the district, just in the state.
That Salem-area district had no incumbent, but quickly drew announcements from Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego and other state and local politicians, that they would bid for the seat.
Schrader decided to run in the 5th district. At the urging of progressives in the district, McLeod-Skinner entered the race.
Oregon has closed primaries for partisan races, so only Democrats could vote for their party's candidates in the May 17 election. McLeod-Skinner defeated Schrader 57% to 43%.
The Republican primary was also closed to all but GOP voters. Chavez-DeRemer received key early backing from U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, the head of the House Republican Caucus. Stefanik had backed the successful ouster of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, who had voted for the impeachment of Trump.
In the Republican primary, Chavez-DeRemer won 43% of the vote in a five-way race.
All registered voters could cast ballots in the Nov. 8 general election, with each candidate attempting to cast the other as too liberal or too conservative for the district.
Both candidates lived near — but not in — the newly aligned district.
Chavez-DeRemer lives in Happy Valley, just outside the district's lines in suburban Clackamas County. McLeod-Skinner lives on a property in the Jefferson County portion of Crook River Ranch, just outside of Terrebonne, Deschutes County.
The 5th district has been nicknamed "The Santiam Pass Seat" because mapmakers used Highway 20 over the Cascades as the geographical linke between populated areas on the west and east side of the mountains.
Democratic redistricting map makers hoped the rapidly-growing and increasingly Democratic-leaning Deschutes County portion of the district would supply enough support for its future nominees to win.
Republicans last had two U.S. House seats after the 1994 election, when the five Oregon members included U.S. Rep Greg Walden, R-Hood River, in the 2nd District and U.S. Rep. Jim Bunn, R-Amity, in the 5th district.
Bunn served one term, losing in 1996 to U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-West Linn, who did not seek re-election in 2008. She was succeeded by Schrader.
Bunn, now a retired deputy sheriff, sought the 2022 Republican nomination for the 6th district, finishing 5th in the May primary won by Mike Erickson.